Pope Francis poses for a selfie as he arrives at the San Giuseppe all'Aurelio parish for a pastoral visit on December 14, 2014 in Rome.
Pope Francis poses for a selfie as he arrives at the San Giuseppe all'Aurelio parish for a pastoral visit on December 14, 2014 in Rome. AFP Photo - Andreas Solaro

How the Pope became a rockstar in 2014

IN 2013 Pope Francis had a lot to celebrate. Not only was he named Time magazine person of the year, but was also awarded the title of Esquire's best-dressed man.

But the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics had a very eventful 2014 too. Here are nine of the most awesome things the first non-European pope in 1200 years did:

1)Became the first religious head to be on Rolling Stone
The then 77-year-old Pope turned rock star and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, accompanied by a 7700-word cover story titled The Times They Are A-Changing. Mark Binelli compared the Pope's charm and appeal to that of former US President Bill Clinton.

2) Auctioned his Harley Davidson for charity
Pope Francis auctioned his custom 2013 Dyna Super Glide for £200,555, and donated the money raised to a hostel and soup kitchen in Rome. A Harley-Davidson leather jacket signed by the pontiff also sold for £47,751 ($96,031).

3) Took on the Mafia
The Pope urged mobsters to pray for forgiveness and "repent" after 3-year old Nicola Campolongo -- nicknamed Coco -- was shot dead in the town of Cassano Jonio in Calabria, in southern Italy. "This violence against such a small child seems without precedent in the history of crime. Let us pray for Coco, who is certainly with Jesus in heaven and for the people who carried out this crime, so that they repent and convert to the Lord."

4) Declared the internet to be godly
Writing of the pros and cons of the digital age, and its implications for Catholics when interacting with people from different faiths and backgrounds, Pope Francis referred to the internet as a "gift from God". However, he did urge caution: "The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us."

5) Declared Catholic beliefs consistent with evolution and the Big Bang theory
Yes, the Pope really did say that God is not "a magician with a magic wand," and the scientific theories of evolution and the Big Bang were not incompatible with the existence of a creator. Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope said: "When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so. He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment."

6) Gave two schoolchildren a ride in the popemobile
The Pope invited Livio Bastianelli and Davide Maria Bianchi, both 11, to hop aboard during his general audience in St Peter's Square a day before the lead-up to Easter.

7) Personally asked for forgiveness for the 'evil' of sexually abusive priests
Pope Francis pleaded for forgiveness for the "evil" of priests who sexually abused children, and promised to take an even stronger stand than before against Catholic abuse scandals. Vatican Radio quoted him as saying: "I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil that some priests -- quite a few in number, [although] obviously not compared to the number of all priests -- to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children."

8) Dropped the F-bomb during a Papal address
Pope Francis shocked thousands in St Peter's Square when he accidentally swore during a weekly address in March. A common mistake by non-native Italian speakers, the Pope stumbled over the Italian word for 'example' or 'case' -- "caso," and instead uttered "cazzo" -- which translates to "f***" (or can also mean the male genitalia).

9) Played a significant role in the historical US-Cuba breakthrough
The US and Cuba decided to restore diplomatic ties with each other -- a historic rapprochement, facilitated in part by Pope Francis. Both Barack Obama and Raul Castro gave a shoutout to the pontiff.